Back in the 90s, consider the thought of someone telling you, "If you sit in front of this screen beside a humming box, you can access other people all over the world that are sitting in front of screens beside humming boxes."
(I'm talking about computers.)
Most people didn't believe it. In fact, they couldn't fathom the idea of Internet, let alone warrant spending the money on something that had so few people (generally speaking) having bought into the idea. The Internet back then was more of a small town than a world wide web.
Then more people started to hear about it. They would log online, experience the feeling of connecting with someone online, and immediately tell someone else. As a result, the Internet started to grow exponentially--as both a social idea, and as a transformative way of expanding or even building a business.
Before long, the dot-com boom was in full effect, and it was clear the Internet was no longer "just an idea." It truly was set to change the way human beings communicate here on earth.
That was step one.
We forget that two decades ago, it was rare for someone to have a computer in their home--whereas today, we tilt our heads in confusion at anyone who doesn't own a computer. And a huge part of society's adoption of the Internet has been reliant upon the improvement of technology. The Internet, purely as a concept, probably lived in the heads of brilliant dreamers and innovators long before it actually came to fruition. It was the technology we were waiting on, and as technology as scaled and improved, so too has the idea of global connectivity.
Today, we are witnessing that same process happen again with blockchain technology.
If it's taken us two decades just to get computers and Internet access to the global population (and keep in mind, we're still only halfway there--only 51% of the world is on the Internet), then the next logical step is going to be solving for how to make better use of all those idle resources.
That's one of the biggest issues blockchain tech is working to solve. Why build one (centralized) solution that can be used (and/or bought) by everyone, when you can leverage the power of Internet users with computers to make everyday resources more effective?
Here are 3 very clear examples:
1. Utilizing blockchain tech to rent your unused bandwidth.
Developers, designers, engineers and "big idea" entrepreneurs have worked hard to make the Internet as easy to use as possible for everyday consumers. But behind that strategically simple Google page is a whole lot of back-end jargon most people don't understand.
A prime case-in-point is when a webpage goes down. Internet users will sit there hitting refresh wondering why it's not working, with no real insight into why. And on the flip-side, businesses spend exorbitant amounts of money protecting against DDoS attacks, malware, and other intrusions that disrupt service or compromise user data.
Thinking conventionally, the Internet has always viewed this problem as something solvable by a private provider. But when put in the context of blockchain, why hire one company or use one software tool to help protect against DDoS attacks when you can leverage the spare network bandwidth of other Internet users? Combined, that decentralized web is far more powerful.
Gladius, a blockchain platform, is already working on making this back-end solution mainstream, allowing everyday users to rent out their bandwidth--and earn tokens (which can be converted into currency) in return.
This is the same sharing economy model we have seen explode in popularity over the past few years--Uber, Airbnb, etc.--except in a more tech-heavy form.
2. Monetizing your hard disk space.
Building off the Uber and shared economy example above, think about how people's perspectives have changed in the past few years in terms of how they rationalize buying a car, or even an apartment.
We now think, "Sure, this might be expensive, but I can offset the cost by renting it out a few days a month."
The exact same thing is happening with computers and everyday users who have available storage on their computers. Filecoin is a blockchain platform that believes it's far better to host the Internet's vast library of information across a variety of different points--rather than keeping huge libraries of data in any one central location. And some of Silicon Valley's most prolific investors seem to agree.
According to Techcrunch, in August, 2017, Filecoin closed out their "advisor" sale, raising $52M from 150+ investors, including Sequoia Capital, Andreessen Horowitz, Union Square Ventures, and Winklevoss Capital, among others. If that's not reason enough to give the idea of sharing your hard disk space some serious thought, Filecoin's ICO in September raised a jaw-dropping $205.8 million.
3. Monetizing idle computing power
Similar to renting hard disk space, what about your computer's power? Can't that be shared as well?
Most people, when using their computers, only use a small portion of their computing power--similar to someone driving a sports car below the speed limit.
Golem is a blockchain platform is working to make the power of a supercomputer available to everyday users by combining computing power into one decentralized network. According to Forbes, "The Golem Network, in its role as an Airbnb for computing-processing power, enables machines around the world to transact with each other."
The idea here is, instead of each individual consumer working to buy the most powerful machine out there in order to compute heavy sets of information, Golem users can tap into that same power in a decentralized and more affordable way.
When you look at these different use cases for blockchain, it's clear that where we're headed in terms of innovation is absolutely within a shared economy. Sharing hard disk space, sharing computing power, sharing resources in a way that benefits both the individual user and the collective whole, both in terms of efficiency, but also transparency and safety.